If you’ve ever met Deceuninck North America president Filip Geeraert, you know he’s a man with a lot of opinions — and he’s not afraid to share them. During the recent GlassBuild America show in Atlanta, DWM sat down with Geeraert for chat about the industry and his company. Here are the highlights.

Deceuninck North America president Filip Geeraert at Fensterbau 2016 in Germany.

Why automation is taking off: “The shortage of people in our industry in the last few years has probably driven or forced people to say  ‘look, there is no other choice. We have to go to automation faster and quicker, and I would say the equipment makers have responded in the same way. You see it everywhere. There are a lot more robots, for example. There will definitely be a lot more of that happening.”

European influence grows: “We definitely see in the U.S. the demand for the whole line of tilt-and-turn products. It’s really kicking in. We’re bringing it in from Europe right now, but maybe next year we will do it ourselves. Definitely a lot of customers are requesting it.”

Other fenestration product trends: “We’re seeing more automation with big doors. That’s happening more than on the windows. On the windows side, we’re putting out more impact products for the South.”

New technology: “Our Rovex fiberglass (which can be used in window mullions to turn single window units into multiple units, such as twins and triples) is a game-changer for us. We have fabricators who have 100 percent converted from aluminum. We’re now the only ones offering that product in the U.S. We expect Rovex to be a big product line in the next year.”

Good times for Deceuninck: “The company is doing well globally, and very well in the U.S. Unfortunately, the dollar is weakening. It’s 15 percent weaker than December. We’ve had double-digit growth, excluding the decking and railing business, which we got rid of. This is the fifth year in a row we are in a good spot. We had some challenges related to people, but we’re optimistic. I’m expecting Q4 and Q1 of 2018 to be very strong, because (Hurricane) Harvey just happened and people will need to start replacing things quickly. I think we will not see a big decrease in demand. Usually, demand in November falls off the table like a rock. I don’t see that happening this year.”

Improving labor picture: “We just hired more than 100 people in Monroe (Ohio, Deceuninck’s North  American headquarters). And for the first time, they’re staying. Last year, we hired 100 people and we lost 100 people. People would not stay, but now is the first time they’re sticking. Something has changed. In the past, our pool was people who didn’t have a job. Now, more than 60 percent of our hires had a job. Our absenteeism rate has improved, even over the summertime. Usually you lose a little bit because people want to take time off, but not this year. We did a job fair in July. We had 187 people show up, plus another 100 who applied online. We had close to 300 people, and we hired more than 100. We had people who were dressed up in suits and ties to interview for production work. We have people who have degrees, two-year and four-year degrees. We had a completely different level of people applying, and apparently now they’re sticking.”

GlassBuild’s weather-related problems: “It was softer than expected. That’s unfortunate. We drove in from Ohio because we didn’t want to take a risk flying with the weather. Seven and a half hours. We had a couple of people who canceled. If we did not have a booth, would we have showed up? I don’t know.”

Increasing capacity in Monroe: “Later this year we will be leasing another 200,000 square feet of warehouse space. We will go from 350,000 to 550,000 square feet. We need it to make sure we can service our customers and we want to make sure we can keep our promises. It’s a good position to be in.”

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